Second Half Strategy, Kjellman's 5
Lift Northwestern into History
Over 4,500 enjoying the weather and the women's lax championship at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland witnessed history Sunday as the Northwestern University Wildcats bested the Cavaliers of the University of Virginia. The game of lacrosse is now officially national and Kelly Amonte-Hiller's athletic, artistic and attractive champions may be catalytic to the further lacrosse boom outside of the classic lacrosse hotbeds.
Tournament MVP Kristen Kjellman
As for the game, all in attendance basically watched two national championship games played out in front of them Sunday. The first was a frenetic and record breaking 8-7 first half featuring lead changes, rapid scoring, quick cutting and feeding - the style of lacrosse most fans love, but not so often seen in NCAA finals in the era of the Princetonian defensive approach, we'll call it. The second, a stunningly divergent second half was perhaps the most one-sided and deliberately slow periods of lacrosse in history. Lead changes every 3 minutes were replaced by possession changes every 8 minutes. Princeton never stalled the ball out like Kelly's Cats did yesterday. Nobody ever played a more deliberate second half of controlled passivity. No players, not even Bill Tierney's championship Tigers, ever showed such discipline as was seen toward the end of the half when a Northwestern attacker faked the keeper three times directly in front of the cage only to take the ball behind and continue the long stall. Nobody ever changed a winning strategy so severely at halftime and succeeded so magnificently at it. There were two games played and both were won by Northwestern.
The game began with a goal swap fest featuring four goals from Virginia's Cary Chasney and five in a row by Northwestern's Kristen Kjellman. High drama soared as the half ended with Northwestern taking the lead on an Aly Joseph pass to Kristen Boege with less than a minute remaining. Virginia's Tyler Leachman nearly, as nearly as one can, knotted the game going into the break when she put one past Ashley Gersuk as the tenths-of-a-second clock moved from 1 tenth of a second to 0. The 'Cats took the uneasy 8-7 lead into the locker room.
Ashley and Courtney Koester
While the Wildcats won the first half, the strategy employed would not be repeated in the second. Virginia coach Julie Meyers admits being stunned by the slowed down controlled stalling tactics used only some 8 minutes into the half. The Virginia keeper had not stopped many shots at that point and it seemed that Northwestern would come out and exploit that weakness further. But the shots did not come. Passes were scarce. Princeton was sitting at home watching but the Princeton stall was winning a championship and in a way even Chris Sailor might have never imagined. In the first 15 minutes of the second half Virginia possessed the ball for slightly more than one. The Cavs relied on a crease violation to regain possession and finally score even after a change in strategy, doubling the ball, was ineffective against the precise and very athletic Wildcats. Northwestern scored three goals begrudgingly during the big stall, with Sarah Albrecht scoring twice and Boege adding another. After the Virginia score, another Chasney gem, Lindsey Munday and Aly Josephs added tallies to give Northwestern a 13-8 lead, and ultimately, the contest.
Virginia's Amy Appelt
The Cavaliers staged a too-little, too-late rally scoring twice in a 17-second span in the last two minutes making them only the third team to score 10 against Amonte's 2005 defense, but the Cats had pulled off a pretty cagey, maybe even brilliant victory giving the school its first NCAA Championship since the men's fencing squad foiled all in 1941.
Kjellman and Kate Darmody celebrate
The Wildcat's victory and season represent the first crowning of a non-eastern university as champion in women's or men's lacrosse and is indicative of the growth of the game while bolstering it's continuance. One humorous moment in the post-game press conference Sunday was Julie Meyers' response to the inevitable question, "Is Northwestern's win good for the game"? She rolled her eyes saying, "I guess I am supposed to say yes". The history was not lost on even the young women caught up in the thrill of the win. Ashley Koester, Kjellman and Gersuk spoke to the issue graciously and with deference to their coach Kelly Amonte-Hiller who will now certainly be anointed as the leader of women's westward expansion, perhaps even the national game as a whole, as she wows everyone this summer as a top player at the Women's World Cup (also on CSTV nationally) which will be played on the same field where she accomplished her coaching dream this past weekend.
Amy Appelt, last year's Tewaaraton Award winner for the best women's college lacrosse player in the nation, had a career-high five draw controls, scored one goal and assisted on two, extending her all-time NCAA Tournament scoring record to 40 where it will end as she graduates, having lead her team to three straight national championship games, winning in 2004. Northwestern's Kristen Kjellman may edge Appelt out for this year's award, scoring the first five NU goals in the title game and leading the Wildcats to an undefeated 21-0 season in 2005. Kjellman is only a sophomore.
With a win, Virginia's Cary Chasney would be the lead story, tying 2001 Georgetown's Erin Elbe with an all-time record 6 goals in a championship game. Elbe lost to Maryland in the 2001 effort. Northwestern's Ashley Gersuk was a star in the cage, assisted often by the stellar play of the Cat's defense.
Appelt, Chasney and Nikki Lieb of Virginia and Northwestern's Kjellman, Albrecht, Munday and sisters, Ashley and Courtney Koester were all named to the NCAA All-Tournament team. They are joined by Duke's Kristen Waagbo and Leigh Jester and Erin Osbourn and Devon Wills from Dartmouth.
Goals: VA: Chasney 6, Leachman 2, Appelt 1, Breslin 1
NU: Kjellman 5, Albrecht 3, Josephs 2, Boege 2, Munday
Assists: VA Appelt 2, Breslin, Lazarus, Leachman
NU: Munday 3, Josephs 2, Elliott, A. Koester, Finch
Goalies: VA: Miles (36:06 mins, 2 saves, 10 GA); Kendall McBrearty (23:54 mins, 1 save, 3 GA)
NU; Ashley Gersuk (60:00 mins, 6 saves, 10 GA)
Draws: VA 11, NU 14
Shots: VA 19,. NU 20
Ground balls: VA 20, NU 14
Caused turnovers: Va 10, NU 6
Turnovers: VA 13, NU 12
Fouls: VA 23, NU 11
8-meter attempts: VA 5, NU 5
8-meter shots: VA 5, NU 4
Clearing: VA 9-12, NU 9-9
Northwestern's Kristen Kjellman
Virginia's Amy Appelt
Northwestern's Ashley Gersuk
Northwestern's Sarah Albrecht
Northwestern's Sarah Albrecht to Kristen Boege
Virginia's Cary Chasney
Northwestern's Kristen Boege
Virginia's Kate Breslin to Cary Chasney
Northwestern's Lindsey Munday to Kristen Kjellman
Northwestern's Aly Josephs
Virginia's Tyler Leachman to Cary Chasney
* NCAA Licensed footage